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News / Politics / Clark County Politics

Sen. Patty Murray, Tiffany Smiley spar over issues, policy

Republican newcomer challenges Democrat, who’s seeking 6th term in U.S. Senate

By Lauren Ellenbecker, Columbian staff writer
Published: October 21, 2022, 6:04am
2 Photos
Tiffany Smiley, a Republican from Pasco, Wash., poses for a photo on Feb. 24, 2022 in Seattle. Smiley is challenging Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., for her seat in the U.S. Senate.
Tiffany Smiley, a Republican from Pasco, Wash., poses for a photo on Feb. 24, 2022 in Seattle. Smiley is challenging Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash., for her seat in the U.S. Senate. (Greg Gilbert/The Seattle Times via AP) Photo Gallery

U.S. Sen. Patty Murray isn’t a stranger to Washington politics, and this is a prime reason why her opponent wants her gone.

Murray, who is seeking to serve a sixth term in the U.S. Senate, entered the federal playing field in 1993 as “the mom in tennis shoes” — an outsider to large bureaucratic systems who could relate to average constituents.

Tiffany Smiley, a former triage nurse and veterans advocate, sees herself in a similar outsider position and argues that her Democratic opponent has morphed into the archetypical, out-of-touch career politician she initially campaigned against. For this reason, Smiley pledged to work toward establishing a two-term limit for senators if elected to office, for a total of 12 years.

If Smiley is successful in booting Murray in the Nov. 8 general election, she would be the first Republican to win a U.S. Senate seat in Washington since 1994.

Since her election, Murray has established herself as a leading Democrat in Washington, D.C., serving on multiple committees centering on federal budgets, veterans issues and health — the latter of which she now focuses on as the Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions chair.

On the other hand, Smiley is a political newcomer with experience advocating for change related to veterans affairs.

After Smiley’s husband, Scotty, was blinded during his military deployment in 2005, she challenged the Department of Veterans Affairs after it was urging him to retire due to his injuries. Smiley’s mission for reform enabled him to become the first blind active-duty officer to serve in the Army.

“I have a track record of taking on big government and winning, and that’s exactly what I’ll do when I get to Washington, D.C.,” she said Oct. 12 during a meeting with The Columbian’s Editorial Board.

In the same interview, Murray said her record of legislative successes shows why she should be re-elected. In Congress’ current session, she helped bring to fruition the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, the CHIPS and Science Act and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Murray described the election as being a critical setting for the future of Washington and democracy itself.

“Women’s rights are on the line in this election. Our democracy is on the line in this election,” she said. “How we’re going to make sure we improve the economy and stay safe, get through the pandemic and back on our feet.”

The senator proposed codifying abortion protections following the Supreme Court’s overturning of Roe v. Wade. Smiley said she believes states should determine abortion restrictions.

An unwell Washington?

Smiley has been critical of legislation passed during the Biden administration such as the American Rescue Plan, which she views as irresponsible government spending. The package delivered direct relief to individuals, families and businesses, but Smiley said Americans are worse off, citing it as a primary contributor to inflation.

A key tool for resolving the country’s surging price increases is becoming energy independent by expanding its gas, oil and clean energy industries, Smiley said.

Murray said America must reduce its reliance on fossil fuels to breathe life into natural resource industries, curb natural disasters and prevent continuing rates of harmful health impacts. She said the Inflation Reduction Act is the largest investment for these climate change efforts.

Smiley criticized Murray for being a proponent of school lockdown mandates during the COVID-19 pandemic. The senator said she worked to quickly end school closures by writing a provision in the American Rescue Plan that would deliver necessary resources, but it gained zero Republican support.

When looking at government resources, more funding needs to be channeled to the U.S.’s “porous border,” which is a through-line for many of the state’s issues, Smiley said. She connected having an unsecure southern border to growing rates of drug use, crime and homelessness while calling for stronger policies on immigration.

“There needs to be more immigration for years. But look, at the end of the day, we know through that open, coarse border that fentanyl is coming through. It’s here. It’s killing our kids,” Smiley said.

Murray said the U.S. has an immigration system in need of improvements, including creating a clearer pathway to citizenship. She said immigration is important for the economy, as well as humanitarian reasons, so it should not be dismissed.

“If they do have legitimate reason (to immigrate), we need to make sure we get through that system quickly,” she said, adding that services need to be in place to support that transition.

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During the interview, Smiley painted a grim reality to describe Washington, saying the state’s homicide rates are climbing, drug use is through the roof and children’s test scores are rapidly dropping. Political recovery and reform are paramount, she said, and will work with whomever to accomplish this.

“Senator Murray has been (in Congress) for almost 30 years and has a nice laundry list of ideas and bills, but if they really worked, why is our quality of life here in Washington state so bad?” Smiley said.

Murray said she also sees problems that need to be solved, something she has a proven record of accomplishing in powerful committees with leaders across the aisle and will continue to do if reelected. Specifically, her campaign has focused on creating jobs, expanding health care and lowering costs for child care.

“I’m going to continue to fight for our families, for our quality of life, for the great environment we have, and I look forward to serving you again for the next six years,” Murray said.

The Columbian’s Editorial Board meeting with Murray and Smiley can be viewed on The Columbian’s YouTube page.

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Columbian staff writer